Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nocternity - Harps of the Ancient Temples EP (2007)

Of late I've found myself re-visiting a lot of short play releases from the past decade, in particular from underground black metal bands whose full-length material has had me in stitches...not the laughing kind, but the kind you get to cover the open wounds some of this material is capable of carving into your skin and memory. Nocternity is a Greek black metal 3-piece who have issued a pair of decent albums and a few splits, but it's their 2007 Harps of the Ancient Temples EP which I have found the most hypnotizing. Granted, it is extremely brief, with only two tracks at around 11 minutes, and only one of these is an original...but this is definitely the direction I'd like to hear the band proceed in, for it would be likely to evoke a masterpiece of epic proportions should it manifest in a full-length effort.

Nocternity are a little difficult to pin down as far as their exact style, but that is also one of the things I enjoy about them. Not necessarily 'depressive' black metal, but extremely vacuous and grim, with the guitars forming several layers of melody over a slowly moving rhythm over 7 and a half minutes of the title track. For much of its playtime, it is highly repetetive, yet so engrossing that you are cycled far back through time to the vaulted halls of old Europa, in which the vision of the three is manifested as a sorrowed parting. Ravn and Khal Drogo (nice George RR Martin reference) have a subtle beauty to their guitars that truly mirrors the bloodstains of the fallen, whether they are wailing off into the subterranean strata or pushing an exhaustive, bristling distorted rhythmic pattern. The vocals here range from heavily affected narrative grunting to a black rasp that washes across the listener like a livid, sharp wind.

But not only do we have the great original track here...we also get a killer cover of Vangelis' "Crystal Tears - End Titles", from the Blade Runner soundtrack. This is one of the best ideas for a cover I've ever heard from a black metal band, and to top that, they really do it justice with some searing, distorted leads that cover the main synth melody, keeping the ambiance alive with the backing choral synths. Vangelis ist, of course, completely krieg and if this could serve as a gateway for more to discover the man's amazing work, so be it. Very classy of the Greeks to include this here on the EP, and puts it well over the top into the purchase category. An excellent, if brief effort here, and hopefully they can continue to thrill whenever they've prepared their 3rd full-length.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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